Fallen Family Flyer

On Memorial Day Americans are asked to remember the fallen–those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These service members gave their lives, but their family members also gave away part of theirs by losing their loved one. My mother’s family is counted among those who had their hearts broken by a casualty of war. We lost my Uncle Joe–1st Lt. Joseph Ambrose Doyle, Jr..

It is impossible for me to remember my uncle because I never met him.  He died while my mother was in college and before she had even met my dad. Thus, my only memories of him are simply the stories that my mother, my aunt and other family members have told me about him, an image of him in his uniform with an infectious smile, and a picture of his grave.  Mom and her older brother were close, and that his death left a huge hole in her heart. Dad confided in me that facing the anniversary of her brother’s death was difficult for Mom even in her later years.

My heart breaks for many reasons at the loss of my uncle.  His life was cut tragically short.  He joined the Army Air Force during World War II when he turned 18.  He died at age 20.  Uncle Joe was an outstanding athlete in high school.  He was a college student at The Citadel.  He had a girlfriend, Sue.  His whole life stretched before him.  But it ended before his adult life really had much of a chance to begin.  What joy could he have brought to his family members if he had returned home?  What offspring could he have produced?  What stories could he have told me about his war experiences?

Uncle Joe was a pilot who flew a B-24 bomber.    It must have been horrific to be tasked with raining death and destruction from the sky, but it was kill or be killed.  He cheated death at least once.  His plane was shot down and crashed into the Adriatic Sea.  He and one other crew member were rescued by an Italian fishing boat; they were the only survivors.

Prior to his untimely death, Uncle Joe got to see a little bit of the world.  He was stationed in Bari, Italy, a city on the east coast of Italy on the Adriatic Sea.  Perhaps being there reminded him of home, the South Carolina coast.  But, alas, he would never see home again nor would he ever come home.  He was killed on April 28, 1945 when his plane crashed into a mountain during poor weather while he was transporting troops to Rome.  Uncle Joe was buried in an American cemetery in Italy along with thousands of other service members who also gave the ultimate sacrifice.

A telegram was sent to advise my family of his death.  My mother got the news from her college dean; she was called into the administrator’s office during exam week to hear the worst possible communication from overseas.  Uncle Joe was honored with a full military service back home, complete with a band and marching cadets from The Citadel and a 21 gun salute.

While I cannot provide my uncle with pomp and circumstance to honor his service and his sacrifice, I can honor him by keeping his memory alive. I love him because he was family and was close to my mom.  As a military family member, I grieve for the loss that his loved ones experienced.  As an American, I salute his patriotism, his service, and his sacrifice.  If you wonder why I’ll be attending a local Memorial Day recognition event on Memorial Day, now you know.  I may give an hour of my time to attend that event, but Uncle Joe gave the rest of his life for me and the rest of our country.  I’ll never forget about you, Uncle Joe!






One of the phrases most closely associated with a mom, i.e., “Eat your vegetables,” did not get mentioned in any Facebook post, sales ad or TV commercial for Mother’s Day that I saw. Raise your adult hand if you took this occasion to thank your mom for making your eat veggies so you could grow up to be big and strong. No? Still secretly harboring resentment against your mom for having to choke down servings of vile veggies?

Give your mom a break. Things could have been a great deal worse. How so, you ask? Well, apparently there are way more veggies out there than we were originally led to believe. I spotted an item in a recent issue of a popular woman’s magazine encouraging readers to take part in a challenge to eat 30 veggies in 30 days.  THIRTY vegetables?

The challenge for me would start early on in the process.  I was unable to come up with thirty different vegetables when I sat down to make a list.  The best I could do was twenty-four, and that number involved a great deal of brain-wracking to achieve.  Try it, I dare you.  Can you come up with thirty?

Had we known there were this many veggies in existence when we were growing up, that category of food would have been considered even more vile.  In all honesty, I did not have a big issue with eating my veggies.  With the exception of Brussels sprouts, I was pretty much OK with consuming the veggies Mom put before me.  And, as I recall, those were served rarely.  But I was not your typical child; veggie eating was a bigger hurdle for some of my contemporaries than for me.

When I grew up to be a mom myself, I had to snicker when “Veggie Tales,” a series of animated children’s films, became popular.  In my opinion, talking, singing and dancing vegetables were more likely to traumatize children than to entertain them.  But apparently the kiddos have no trouble watching veggies prance about; it is when you try to get them to put the veggies in your mouth when you encounter difficulties.

Actually, we all have veggie tales to tell.  Pick a vegetable, any vegetable.  Certainly you have a story associated with that vegetable if it is a fairly common one. .  Let’s take potatoes for example.  When I was growing up, having grilled steak and baked potatoes was a big family event.  I loved to put butter on my baked potato and watch it melt.  I enjoyed this diversion so much that my baked potatoes were literally swimming in melted butter when I quit playing and started eating them.  Obviously, cholesterol was no a concern for me back in those days.

Cabbage also evokes fond memories for me.  My dad could not stand cabbage, but my mom and I loved eating boiled cabbage.  When my Dad was gone one summer to work on his doctorate, Mom and I frequently ate cabbage.  We had to get our fill in before Dad returned home and cabbage was banned from the menu.

The favorite vegetable for my family has to be broccoli.  My dad was not a fan of broccoli either.  He took great delight in pointing out to the rest of the family that even President George H.W. Bush did not like broccoli as if his aversion to that green veggie cleared the path to the White House for him.  My mom found a recipe for broccoli puff that won Dad over.  He would eat broccoli in that form, and no holiday dinner in our house was ever complete without that dish being served.

I passed this love of broccoli on down to my own children.  When my son was off at college, we would sometimes take a road trip to visit him.  I would call and ask if there was any food he wanted me to bring him.  You think a college student might ask for cookies or sweets.  But no, my son asked his dear mother to bring him broccoli puff.  My daughter was assured that she had found the perfect husband when her spouse, an Army officer, would specifically request that she prepare broccoli puff for him upon his return from the field.

And who doesn’t love a tale about a love affair?  I have been enamored of spinach for years.  Perhaps my name should be Alice Oyl because Popeye and I would get along great.  I could eat my weight in spinach.  My favorite spinach dish makes me recall a wonderful potluck with a favorite church group where I got this recipe.–add (lots of) butter,  heat and top with garlic salt and Parmesan cheese.  Forget vile veggies–this spinach dish is heavenly.

Mom may no longer be around to tell me to eat my veggies, but I have the doctor to tell me that no.  I don’t need to grow big and strong, but I do need to keep myself in good health to enjoy my adult life.  What’s the prescription for that?  VIVA LAS VEGGIES!








Suffering Spontaneity

Being spontaneous is highly overrated in my book. I mean how likely is it that something splendid is going to result from acting on a momentary impulse? Although I was never a Girl Scout, I adhere to the motto, “Be prepared,”i.e., plan ahead. That outlook is simply antithetical to spontaneity.

Perhaps being a planner is the result of how I was raised. My mother often told me that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Even though opposites are supposed to attract, my father was a planner as well as my mother. I can remember being on family vacations where Dad would ask me to write down our lunch order for McDonald’s while we were on the interstate miles away from our intended meal destination. Heaven forbid we get there and–GASP–have to make a decision at the counter.

My lack of spontaneity is the reason I am positive that God has a sense of humor. He made sure that I am in a job–I’m an adoption attorney–where I often have to do things on the spur of the moment. Of course, the impulse that spurs me to act then is not an internal one; it is the result of someone else failing to plan or babies, rather than adults, controlling the agenda. I frequently joke that I have to fly by the seat of my pants at the office even though I am typically wearing a dress.

My late mother-in-law was a woman who would definitely be classified as a spontaneous person. I have heard stories about how she would sometimes pick up her kids from school on a Friday afternoon with the car packed and announce that they were headed to a beach hours away for the weekend. What fun! As a planner, that situation would make my skin crawl.

While spontaneous people will no doubt urge me to loosen up and live more for the joy in the moment, I firmly believe that the spontaneous ones are the ones missing out on the real joy. If I plan something in advance, I get to savor the anticipation of the upcoming event for day, weeks, or even months in advance. Spontaneous joy lasts but a short while, but the planner’s anticipation goes on for a long time.

Each time I have taken a trip to some exciting vacation spot, I have bought a Fodor’s or similar book about that particular location way in advance of my departure date. Not only did I read about the history of the destination and learn its basic geography, but I checked out what restaurants, museums, attractions, etc. I wanted to visit while there. In some instances, I’d already decided before I even packed my suitcase what special dish I would order at the restaurant I had selected.. Yup! I savored that salmon crepe in my mind at the restaurant of my choice at Pike Place Market in Seattle long prior to heading to the airport to travel to the West Coast from Florida.

There are some rare instances where spontaneity has worked well for me. If you have read to this point in my blog post, you are experiencing a spontaneous event in my life. Typically when I write, there is a gestation period between the conception of my creative baby and its birth. I may take days to jot down notes about points I want to include, do research to find interesting tidbits or pictures to include in a blog post, etc. But today–drum roll, please–I was totally spontaneous. I had a creative spark to write about spontaneity and then did what the concept implies–acted on that momentary impulse. I sat down and wrote off the top of my head. There was no meditation on the idea, research on information to include, or sleeping on it and reviewing what I wrote tomorrow. I just did it.

So? What do I conclude after acting spontaneously today? I will not be placing “Be spontaneous” on my to do list. Been there, done that, don’t feel compelled to do it again. I’m a planner, and being one is more likely to make me a happy camper than being spontaneous. I’ll take pleasure in planning rather than suffering at trying to be spontaneous.